“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, but when you’re working at 30,000 feet and crossing state and international borders, clear policies must be established to prevent incidents of midair sexual assault.”
So said Nena Martin, a flight attendant and National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents over 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines.
Martin was responding to a bipartisan bill released this week, the Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act, calling for new reporting requirements and policies to counter sexual assault and physical harassment of both employees and passengers in commercial air and other modes of transportation.
The new legislation, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4), will require airlines and other companies engaged in transporting passengers, in conjunction with their unions, to establish clear policies to combat abuse.
Airlines will have a special requirement to keep records and provide annual reports of incidents involving sexual harassment. New financial penalties and training requirements are also included in the proposed legislation. In addition, airlines would be required to post, on their websites, policies and guidance related to sexual harassment of passengers and crew.
For years, APFA’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has regularly provided counseling, legal assistance, and other help to APFA members who have been victims of physical and sexual assault.
“We’ve come a long way since the ‘coffee, tea, or me’ culture of the 1960s, but we still have a long way to go,” said Abby Alconcher, APFA National EAP Specialist, who, along with other EAP staff, help flight attendants who have been victims of sexual harassment.
“We often get reports of passengers physically touching flight attendants in inappropriate ways and passengers touching other passengers in ways that can only be considered abusive,” said Alconcher.
“On our international flights, we have special problems reporting incidents to authorities abroad, where the laws and enforcement of those laws can be very complex. These new guidelines and federal requirements are much needed and will help make the skies safer.”
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) is the largest independent flight attendant union in the nation, representing over 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines.